by Steve Adubato, PhD

In the world of business, really strong leaders never stop learning or stop looking for new ways of looking at old and new problems. One of those leaders whose business library is particularly impressive is Marc Mackin, president of LAPP Holding North America, part of the worldwide LAPP Group, the leader in advanced cable technology, flexible cable, connectors and accessories. I was recently in Marc’s office preparing for a communication seminar and we were talking about the challenges he and other presidents and CEOs face, such as leading and embracing change, the issue of succession planning and the nagging problem of too many professionals who just don’t make strong presentations.

As I spoke with Mackin, and was looking over his shoulder, I was amazed by the number of books in his office dealing with these and related topics. Now, there are many business professionals that have lots of books in their library, but what struck me in my conversation with Mackin was that not only has he read a lot, but he tries to live it every day. Moreover, he works to implement some of these business concepts and communicate them to those in his organization. When I asked him which business books he found most useful, he shared the following list; Change the Culture, Change the Game by Roger Connors and Tom Smith; Leaders at All Levels by Ram Charan; Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and Charles Burck; and one of my favorites, Good to Great by Jim Collins.

But how does Marc Mackin have the time to read so many books about business when he is running a company? He responded by saying, “You don’t have the time not to.” Then immediately he made reference to Stephen Covey’s groundbreaking book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Mackin said, “You remember the 7th habit? Sharpen the saw?” What Mackin was saying was that leaders have to stay sharp, on the cutting edge and exposing themselves to new and different approaches in an ever changing industry and marketplace.

What’s also interesting is that Mackin is attempting to model the work of Covey and Chris McChesney who co-authored The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Mackin says that one of the keys to the 4 disciplines is to focus on what the authors called “wildly important goals”. Mackin says that these are the “musts and not the wants” of an organization. This is what an organization HAS to accomplish in order to stay in the game.

Further, according to Mackin, “You can have lots of great ideas and call them goals, but according to the ‘4 Disciplines’, the more goals you have, the greater the likelihood of you not achieving any of them.” What Mackin has taken away from the ‘4 Disciplines” is that if his organization focuses on between 1 and 3 strategically important goals, they can have “up to an 85% success rate”. However, according to Mackin, “if we have between 11 and 20 goals, research shows that we are likely to accomplish none of them because we cannot focus on that many things at one time.”

The bottom line is that no matter where you rank in the business hierarchy, you can never know or learn enough. Great leaders keep reading and stay curious. They also communicate to those around them what they’ve learned. They want to know more and realize that one of the ways to do that is by strategically growing your library of business books. Marc Mackin and other smart leaders know that, but more importantly, the key is to try to live it every day and attempt to get others on your team to adopt this approach.